Canadian Employment Insurance – Sickness Benefits and how it comes into play in the time of Covid-19
Canadian government’s Employment Insurance (EI) is a social benefit scheme aimed at safeguarding the livelihood of people (employees) who have lost their jobs (due to no fault of their own, mass layoffs etc.) or are unable to find work (seasonal employment, shortage of work etc.).
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EI Sickness benefits are those which an employee may be entitled to in cases where they are unable to continue their work, as a result of a medical condition. Under such circumstances, employees may receive financial support from the Canadian government, of 55% of your weekly earnings up to CAD 573 per week, for 15 weeks.
Obtaining this benefit has certain eligibility requirements:
- A medical certificate is to be submitted along with the application, confirming that your medical condition(s) is preventing you from working.
- Evidence that the weekly earnings of the applicant have reduced by at least 40 % of their regular earnings for 1 week or more.
- The applicant has accumulated 600 ‘insured hours’ of work in the 1 year preceding the start of the claim or since the last such claim [Record of Employment].
Note: It is important that you apply for the benefit as soon as you have stopped working or are unable to i.e. within 4 weeks of your last day at work.
The amount of weekly benefits an individual may receive depends on their income. It would generally be 55% of their weekly income (insurable earnings) but cannot exceed CAD 573.
Insurable earnings include wages, tips, commissions, bonuses etc. and must have been paid directly to the individual in the course of their employment.
Once the application for EI Sickness benefits is approved, the individual should ideally receive the first payment after 28 days of application! One week of the said 28 days is the waiting period (like an insurance premium deductible, as described on the govt. website), where the individual would not be receiving any payment.
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The payments under this scheme would stop, once the individual has recovered (if within the 15 weeks period) or if they have continued to receive benefits for 15 weeks or if the period of their claim has expired (which is usually for a year and maybe extended to 2 years).
How does this work in the Covid-19 times?
Well, after the outbreak of Coronavirus in Canada, the government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to provide financial support to the employed and self-employed individuals affected by the pandemic. This constitutes weekly financial support of CAD 500 per, for a period of up to 16 weeks.
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This scheme may be availed by any individual who is above the age of 15 years. The other eligibility requirements include that the individual:
- has not quit his/her job voluntarily
- is a Canadian resident
- has not previously applied for EI or CERB benefits for the same period
- earned (from employment, self-employment and/or maternity/paternity benefits) a minimum income of CAD 5,000 in the 12 months before the date of application or in 2019.
- Would be unable to work due to Covid-19 for a period of at least 14 consecutive days
Individuals who have recently applied for EI Sickness Benefits would automatically be assessed for eligibility for CERB. The Canadian authorities have announced that a medical certificate would not be required, to apply for EI Sickness Benefits, starting 15th Mar 2020.
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